Acquiring feature-based ordering preferences in English ditransitives

Bürkle, Daniel Matthias orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-5531-2122 (2023) Acquiring feature-based ordering preferences in English ditransitives. In: Ditransitives in Germanic Languages. Synchronic and diachronic aspects. Studies in Germanic Linguistics (7). Benjamins, Amsterdam, pp. 404-441. ISBN 9789027249715

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The system of features affecting adults’ dative construction choices in English is well established in recent research. Less is known about how children might acquire this system. The two experiments in this chapter add data to this question. They map out the effects of length, animacy, and grammatical number on these choices in first language acquisition. The first experiment combines an act-out task with eye-tracking and finds that children as young
as four years of age expect the animate-before-inanimate order. The second experiment asks the same participants to reproduce ditransitive sentences and finds that participants reproduce sentences more easily if these conform to their ordering preferences. These results suggest that the harmonic alignment evident in dative ordering preferences is an epiphenomenon of cognitive ease.

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